Friday, 31 October 2014

Nightcrawler - Dir. Dan Gilroy

Any film that features a guy driving around night time Los Angeles is undoubtedly going to be compared to Nicholas Winding Refn’s Drive. Hopefully Nightcrawler will break free from those shackles as Dan Gilroy’s film is exhilarating and entertaining in its own right, and nothing at all like Drive.
Jake Gyllenhaal is Lou Bloom: clever, ambitious and a complete sociopath. After stumbling upon a news film crew at a horrific traffic collision, Lou buys a camera and police scanner and prowls the night on the hunt for newsworthy accidents and crimes to film. He’s quite good at it and his footage soon catches the attention of local news director Nina (Rene Russo).

What follows could be seen as a sharp exploration of the rise of sensationalist news coverage, something that has been covered to varying degrees for many years, most notably in Sidney Lumet’s Network. All of that is there and it’s great to watch Lou’s exploits gradually escalate to dizzying morally questionable heights. Gilroy has brought this commentary right up to date, particularly with reference to the desire for footage of urban crime creeping into the suburbs. At its very centre though, Nightcrawler is a character study with the creepy Lou Bloom as its subject.
Many have compared Bloom to Travis Bickle, which isn’t entirely accurate; Rupert Pupkin is the more comparable de Niro character, but again not entirely accurate. Lou Bloom isn’t a disillusioned war veteran or a fame hungry stand-up comedian, he’s something more refreshing than that: he’s a hard worker.

His determination to embark on a successful career knows no boundaries. He succeeds because has no problem taking morally questionable decisions if they can further his career. Whether he’s conscious of these decisions being unethical or not is left in the balance. Lou is the product of an internet education, sprouting buzzwords and key phrases with complete sincerity. Lou’s not using his footage as a way to gain notoriety or get on TV, he wants to open new doors and move further up the ladder.

Similarly, the other characters in the film make the decisions they do to kick-start or maintain their careers. Rick (Riz Ahmed) needs the money so is happy to take the unorthodox role as Lou’s navigator and intern. Whilst Lou undoubtedly exploits and manipulates Rick, he believes he’s offering Rick a valuable learning experience and a springboard for a successful career. News director Nina knows that Lou’s footage will get the ratings that the channel wants, which will in turn keep her in a job for the foreseeable future.

However it’s about more than just having a successful career, Lou wants (or perhaps needs) to have power over others. He never directly forces them to do anything, instead offering them a choice with two options: the one that he wants them to take and another that they can’t possibly take. Furthermore, he will resort to extreme actions when his power is threatened or he can’t get what he wants through conventional means.
Whilst there is excellent supporting work from Riz Ahmed, Rene Russo and Bill Paxton, Nightcrawler is Jake Gyllenhaal’s film. His performance is outstanding, complemented by his gaunt and hollowed look. If Prisoners was all about the blinking eyes, Nightcrawler is about the unwavering stare and unnerving smile. After an uneven start, the plot rattles along at a great pace and Gilroy’s script has subtle moments of humour. I’m not quite sure the ending is wholly satisfying, but Gilroy’s film is a gripping and original thriller.

Nightcrawler probably won’t garner any awards recognition but will gradually seep into popular culture thanks to its intriguing central character, impressive visuals and cool soundtrack.

So actually, Nightcrawler is kind of like Drive.

Nightcrawler is in cinemas nationwide now. Images and trailer courtesy of Chuck Zlotnick and Bold Films/Entertainment One respectively.

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